Sep 11, 2021; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson Tigers running back Lyn-J Dixon (23) carries the ball against the South Carolina State Bulldogs during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee lands former Clemson RB Lyn-J Dixon

Former Clemson running back Lyn-J Dixon is transferring to Tennessee.

Dixon rushed for 1,420 yards in four seasons with the Tigers and transferred to West Virginia earlier this year. In June, he said he was re-entering the transfer portal.

Tennessee starting running back Jabari Small is back in 2022 after logging 140 carries for 792 yards in 2021.

But Tennessee adding depth at running back is not a surprise. The Vols lost sophomore Len’Neth Whitehead to a season-ending injury that required surgery, coach Josh Heupel said Sunday night.

The Volunteers open the 2022 season on Sept. 1 at home against Ball State.

–Field Level Media

Tennessee Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt walks during the Vol Walk ahead of a game between Tennessee and Mississippi State in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, October 12, 2019.

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NCAA: Former Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt gave cash to recruits

Former Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt and his wife were among a group of people who gave almost $60,000 in impermissible cash or gifts to recruits and their families, according to a notice of allegations filed against the program by the NCAA.

The 51-page document was obtained by Sports Illustrated, which shared the allegations on Friday. The NCAA alleges the Pruitts and staff members gave money and gifts to players after he was named Volunteers coach in December 2017, replacing Butch Jones. Pruitt was fired in January 2021 for cause.

According to Sports Illustrated, Pruitt and his staff allegedly hosted at least six prospects and their families on nine weekend unofficial periods during the lengthy recruiting dead period caused by the pandemic. During that time, they reportedly provided the recruits with lodging, food, transportation and assorted household items worth $12,000.

The report said Pruitt also made separate payments of $3,000 and $6,000 to mothers of recruits to pay for medical bills and a down payment on a car, respectively

In addition, Casey Pruitt, the coach’s wife, allegedly gave $13,000 in cash to unspecified recruits and their families, Sports Illustrated reported.

In all, there are 18 infractions — all Level I, the most serious — listed in the report. The reported violations allegedly were committed by the Pruitts; assistant coaches Derrick Ansley, Shelton Felton and Brian Niedermeyer; recruiting staff members Drew Hughes, Bethany Gunn and Chantryce Boone; and an unnamed student assistant.

None of them currently are employed by Tennessee.

Knox News said the NCAA gave Tennessee credit for self-reporting the violations and for “exemplary cooperation” as the NCAA investigated. The NCAA did not cite the university for a lack of institutional control, meaning it likely will face lesser punishment, per the Knox News report.

Tennessee already stripped itself of 12 scholarships last season.

“Receipt of our Notice of Allegations was an expected, requisite step in this process — a process our university initiated proactively through decisive and transparent actions,” Tennessee athletic director Danny White said in a statement Friday, per Sports illustrated. “This moves us one step closer to a final resolution. … As a university, we understand the need to take responsibility for what occurred, but we remain committed to protecting our current and future student-athletes.”

The Volunteers were 16-19 in Pruitt’s tenure. He was replaced by Josh Heupel, who led Tennessee to a 7-6 record in his first season.

–Field Level Media

Nov 23, 2019; Columbia, MO, USA; A general view of a Tennessee Volunteers helmet during the second half against the Missouri Tigers at Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

5-star edge Chandavian Bradley bound for Tennessee

Chandavian Bradley, a five-star edge rusher in the Class of 2023, committed to Tennessee, giving coach Josh Heupel a top-five national ranking.

Bradley, from Platte County (Mo.) High School, is the No. 5 edge rusher and No. 36 overall player in the 247Sports composite rankings. He joins an impressive class that includes four players in the top 90: quarterback Nicholaus Iamaleava, No. 4 overall prospect; edge Caleb Herring (No. 68); and tight end Ethan Davis (No. 89).

The class moved to No. 5 in the 247Sports 2023 rankings, trailing Ohio State, Notre Dame, Clemson and Texas.

Bradley chose Tennessee over South Carolina and Texas A&M.

Bradley, who committed Sunday afternoon, said it took only one unofficial visit in May to sell him on the Volunteers.

“You could kind of tell the family atmosphere and just the atmosphere in general,” he told 247Sports. “Even with it being summer and people being gone, you can kind of tell from the energy that they really care about their people.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans wide receiver Bru McCoy (4) is defended by Oregon Ducks cornerback Mykael Wright (2) during the Pac-12 Championship at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Oregon defeated USC 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Former USC receiver Bru McCoy transfers to Tennessee

Former Southern California wide receiver Bru McCoy announced on social media Tuesday that he has committed to transfer to Tennessee.

McCoy, who has played just one season of college football and sat out two others, was in the transfer portal for the third time.

McCoy was a five-star recruit in the Class of 2019 out of Ranchos Palos Verde, Calif., ranked the No. 9 overall player in the class in the 247Sports composite.

He enrolled at USC in January 2019 but changed his mind and transferred to Texas. Less than six months later, he had decided to transfer back to USC.

McCoy sat out the 2019 season at USC because of an illness before compiling 21 catches for 236 yards and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

He never got into a game during 2021 following an arrest on suspicion of domestic violence. Charges against McCoy eventually were dropped, but the Trojans never reinstated him.

The Volunteers went 7-6 (4-4 SEC) in 2021 and are being projected as a potential preseason top 25 team for 2022, with last year’s starting quarterback Hendon Hooker (2,945 yards, 31 touchdowns, three picks) among those returning.

–Field Level Media

Nov 23, 2019; Columbia, MO, USA; A general view of a Tennessee Volunteers helmet during the second half against the Missouri Tigers at Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee lands commitment from 2023 QB Nico Iamaleava

Tennessee landed the commitment Monday of five-star quarterback Nicholaus “Nico” Iamaleava Jr., a top 10 player in the Class of 2023.

The 247Sports composite ranks Iamaleava as the No. 4 quarterback and No. 7 overall player in the class, which is headlined by Arch Manning. Iamaleava’s commitment is a sign Manning likely isn’t interested in following his Uncle Peyton’s footsteps at Tennessee.

But Iamaleava, who will play his senior season at powerhouse Long Beach Poly in Southern California, told 247Sports that the Volunteers are the perfect program for him.

“They had everything I was looking for,” Iamaleava told 247Sports about his visit to Knoxville earlier this month. “I met some incredible people, not just with the football program but everyone we met was so welcoming to us and made me feel like home.

“It looks like a really fun offense to play in,” Iamaleava added. “I’ll be back there for the spring game and looking forward to that but I’ve studied what they do and feel I’ll be able to fit in really well.”

The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Iamaleava is the fifth-highest-rated recruit in Tennessee history, per 247Sports. He recently transferred to Long Beach Poly from Warren High School in Downey, Calif.

With his commitment, Tennessee moves to the No. 3 class in the Southeastern Conference for 2023.

–Field Level Media

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs through the Indianapolis Colts defense during the game at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021 in Indianapolis, Ind.

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Report: Derrick Henry (foot) ‘expected’ at Titans’ practice Wed.

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry, who has been on injured reserve since Nov. 1 with a broken bone in his right foot, is expected to return from injured reserve Wednesday and participate in practice, ESPN reported Tuesday.

Henry got some light work in Monday, when Titans coach Mike Vrabel said the team will consider whether to activate his window to return from injured reserve mid-week. If Henry is designated to return, he’ll have a 21-day window to return to the 53-man active roster.

Henry suffered the injury Oct. 31 (Week 8) against the Indianapolis Colts. At the time, he led the NFL in rushing with 937 yards.

Henry, 28, had surgery to repair the “Jones” fracture on Nov. 2. Since his absence, D’Onta Foreman has been the lead running back in Tennessee, piling up 497 yards.

Even with Henry’s return to practice, the two-time NFL rushing champion may not suit up for the Titans in their season finale against the Houston Texans. The Titans (11-5) have locked up their division and currently hold the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

They can lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win in Houston (4-12) Sunday, but the team may choose to rest Henry to give him an extra week off before the playoffs with a potential first-round playoff bye the next week.

–Field Level Media

Purdue wide receiver Broc Thompson (29) catches a pass as Tennessee defensive back De'Shawn Rucker (28) defends at the 2021 Music City Bowl NCAA college football game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021.

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Purdue nips Tennessee in OT, wins high-scoring Music City Bowl

Aidan O’Connell threw for 534 yards and five touchdowns and Mitchell Fineran kicked a 38-yard field goal in overtime as Purdue nipped Tennessee 48-45 on Thursday in a thrilling Music City Bowl in Nashville.

In a game where the teams combined for 1,290 total yards, the Boilermakers (9-4) got the last laugh against the Volunteers (7-6) thanks to a dynamic passing attack. O’Connell found Broc Thompson seven times for 217 yards and two touchdowns, while Payne Durham collected five catches for 85 yards and two scores.

Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker matched O’Connell with five TD passes and threw for 378 yards without an interception. Cedric Tillman registered seven catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns, Velus Jones Jr. had 10 catches for 85 yards and a score, and Jabari Small ran for 180 yards and a touchdown for the Volunteers.

Tennessee got the ball first in overtime and went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1. However, Jaylen Wright was stood up at the goal line and the whistle blew before he was able to reach the ball across. That gave Purdue a chance to win, and Fineran snuck his kick inside the left upright.

The teams combined for four touchdowns in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.

O’Connell began the wild sequence by throwing a pass to Durham, who spun away from three defenders, stayed inbounds and bolted for a 62-yard touchdown. The duo connected on the ensuing two-point conversion to give the Boilermakers a 38-31 lead.

However, the Volunteers tied it less than 1 1/2 minutes later. Small’s 60-yard run set up Hooker’s TD pass to Tillman on fourth-and-goal from the 13.

That deadlock lasted only 40 seconds, as O’Connell hit Thompson for a 70-yard go-ahead score with 2:57 to play. But Hooker and Princeton Fant quickly hooked up on a 58-yard completion to set up Hooker’s game-tying 2-yard TD strike to Jalin Hyatt with 1:35 remaining.

Each team had one more possession in regulation, but Purdue punted on its trip and Tennessee’s 56-yard field goal came up short.

The Boilermakers led 23-21 at the break before the teams jockeyed back and forth in the third quarter.

Tennessee regained the lead on Jones’ 15-yard catch-and-run, and then O’Connell and TJ Sheffield connected on a stellar 10-yard pitch-and-catch into the end zone to put Purdue back in front, 30-28. Chase McGrath’s 30-yard field goal flipped the scoreboard once again, giving the Volunteers a 31-30 edge at the end of three quarters.

–Field Level Media

Dec 23, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA;  Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

For Dolphins, path to playoffs goes through Titans and former QB Ryan Tannehill

The Miami Dolphins, the first team in NFL history to win seven straight games and also lose seven consecutive games in the same season, are set to visit the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

Miami (8-7) will make the playoffs if it beats the Titans (10-5) and New England (9-6) to close out the regular season.

Dolphins coach Brian Flores said his players deserve credit for how they have responded to a brutal 1-7 start.

“The guys keep fighting,” Flores said.

While that’s true, the Dolphins have also been fortunate. During this winning streak — the second-longest active run in the NFL — the Dolphins have beaten just one team that does not have a losing record. That team is Baltimore, which is barely above .500 at 8-7.

The Dolphins are now tasked with defeating Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill, who spent six seasons as Miami’s starting quarterback, struggling with mediocre talent surrounding him. Tannehill had a 42-46 record as Miami’s starting QB.

In Tennessee, however, Tannehill has produced a sterling 28-13 record.

But, with star running back Derrick Henry out since Halloween due to a foot injury, more pressure has fallen on Tannehill. Henry last year became just the eighth NFL player to rush for 2,000 yards in one season. He was on pace to break the league record when he got hurt, and his return could happen this season.

In the meantime, Tannehill has been intercepted a league-high 14 times this season as defenses no longer fear the Titans’ run game.

Last weekend, however, Tannehill helped Tennessee rally from a 10-point halftime deficit as the Titans beat the 49ers 20-17 on Randy Bullock’s 44-yard field goal with four seconds left. Tannehill passed for 169 second-half yards.

“We’re not dead yet,” Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel said of the Titans, who have lost three of their past five games.

A win over the Dolphins would give the Titans their second straight AFC South championship.

Wide receiver A.J. Brown, who came off injured reserve for the 49ers game, is Tannehill’s top target. Brown caught a career-high 11 passes for 145 yards against the 49ers. For the season, he has 57 receptions for 760 yards. This is his third year in the NFL, and he’s hoping for his third 1,000-yard season.

The Titans, who opened as 3 1/2-point favorites over the Dolphins, will be playing on nine days of rest.

Miami, after its game at New Orleans on Monday, will have only five days of rest.

Otherwise, the teams are fairly similar in that they each have a dynamic, young wide receiver — Brown for Tennessee and Jaylen Waddle for Miami — and suffocating run defenses.

Waddle on Monday set the Dolphins rookie record for receiving yards with 941 on 96 catches.

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has made a living this year out of short and safe passes to Waddle and tight end Mike Gesicki (67 catches for 707 yards).

But Tagovailoa, who leads the NFL in completion percentage (70.1), seems to make just enough plays to win games, and that was the case against the Saints. In that game, Tagovailoa’s biggest throw was a 40-yard dime lofted over the top of a defender, who was draped all over Mack Holllins. That third-down throw led to Miami’s only offensive touchdown of the game.

Tagovailoa is 12-7 in two years as Miami’s QB, but he has also been intercepted three times in the past two games.

Defensively, the Titans rank second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (86.7). Miami ranks seventh (102.3).

Against the pass, Miami leads the NFL with 45 sacks. Tennessee is tied for 10th with 37 sacks.

The Titans’ pass-blocking against that fierce Dolphins rush is a matchup to watch. Tennessee, missing both starters on the left side, allowed four sacks to the 49ers. However, left guard Rodger Saffold was activated from the COVID-protocol list this week. And left tackle Taylor Lewan, who missed the 49ers game due to a back injury, also returned to practice. Both players are expected to start Sunday.

Titans starting cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who has an ankle injury, was limited in practice this week, and that could be a factor on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) during the first half against the South Alabama Jaguars at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee, Purdue enter Music City Bowl after late-season success

Tennessee heads west on I-40 to play in front of an expected partisan crowd in Nashville on Dec. 30, when the Volunteers take on Purdue in the Music City Bowl.

The Volunteers (7-5) wrapped up the regular season by winning three of their final four games, with their only loss in that span coming against then-No. 1 Georgia. Tennessee scored at least 45 points in each of its final six victories, and it scored at least 38 points in every win this year.

Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker has enjoyed a splendid season, throwing 26 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. He has completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,567 yards, and he has produced 561 yards and five scores on the ground.

“(He’s a) great leader and I just believe that he is still becoming the best version of himself as a player,” first-year Volunteers coach Josh Heupel said.

Jabari Small (612 yards, eight TDs) highlights the Tennessee backfield contingent, while Cedric Tillman leads the team in catches (57), receiving yards (931) and TD grabs (nine).

On the other side of the ball, linebacker Jeremy Banks had by far the most tackles on the team (108) and ranks third on the squad with 4.5 sacks. Defensive back Alontae Taylor, who nursed a foot injury in recent weeks, is skipping the bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft.

The Volunteers’ secondary would have needed all the help it could get against Boilermakers wideout David Bell, who was named a first-team All-American after posting 1,286 receiving yards — 21 shy of the school record — on 93 receptions. However, Bell decided to skip the bowl game to protect his NFL draft stock.

Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis will sit out the bowl game as well.

“I understand the position they’re in,” Boilermakers coach Jeff Brohm said. “With all of our players, we want to communicate what we think. Obviously, they hear other opinions and other sides of the story and then they weigh that and do what’s best for them.

“But we’re gonna support both those guys. They’ve done a tremendous job for us. Great ambassadors of the program, performed at a high level and really have a bright future.”

Aidan O’Connell (73.5 completion percentage, 23 TDs, eight INTs) threw 16 touchdowns and no picks over the past five games, during which Purdue went 4-1. The Boilermakers (8-4) don’t get much help from their rushing attack, as seven of their top eight runners average 4.0 yards per carry or less. Only Bell, with just three carries for 39 yards this season, comes in north of that figure.

Jaylan Alexander leads Purdue with 94 tackles, while Kydran Jenkins has a team-leading five sacks. Karlaftis, who might be a first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft, had 4.5 sacks.

The Volunteers are appearing in the Music City Bowl for the third time. They lost to North Carolina in double overtime in 2010 before defeating Nebraska six years later. That victory over the Cornhuskers is part of Tennessee’s current four-game winning streak in bowl games.

Purdue, meanwhile, has earned only one bowl victory since 2011. The Boilermakers’ most recent bowl appearance came in this event in 2018, when they were trounced by Auburn 63-14.

The only prior matchup between Tennessee and Purdue came in the 1979 Bluebonnet Bowl, which the Boilermakers won 27-22.

–Field Level Media

Christ School senior quarterback Navy Shuler and his dad, former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler, in the backyard of their home on July 2, 2019. 

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Heath Shuler’s son to continue family legacy at Tennessee

The son of former Tennessee quarterback Heath Shuler announced Sunday that he’s going to continue the family legacy with the Volunteers.

Navy Shuler, also a quarterback, is transferring to Tennessee from Appalachian State. While he spent two seasons with the Appalachian State program, he didn’t record any statistics, and because of COVID-related rules, he’ll have four years of eligibility remaining.

“I would like to thank all of the coaches from Power 5 to Group of 5 programs that have offered me. It’s been very humbling,” he posted to Twitter.

“With that being said, I will be transferring to the University of Tennessee, and will be the fifth Shuler in my family to wear the power T. I would like to thank Coach (Josh) Heupel and his staff for giving me this opportunity: Rocky Top has always been my home. It’s time to return!”

Shuler was a three-star recruit in the Class of 2020 and played in high school at Christ School in Arden, N.C.

His father played for Tennessee from 1991-93 and was second to Florida State’s Charlie Ward in Heisman Trophy balloting in 1993.

Heath Shuler threw for 4,089 yards and 36 touchdowns, with 12 interceptions, in his college career and set a number of school passing records that Peyton Manning went on to break.

Washington selected Shuler No. 3 overall in the 1994 NFL draft, but he lasted just three seasons with the team and played a fourth with the New Orleans Saints. In 22 career NFL starts, he had an 8-14 record.

Shuler went on to serve three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing North Carolina.

–Field Level Media